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Two Stanford juniors win 2021 Truman Scholarships for graduate studies

Mercedes “Sadie” Blancaflor and Nicholas “Nick” Hakes will receive Truman Scholarships, which provide up to $30,000 to students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in public service.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation has named two Stanford juniors – Mercedes “Sadie” Blancaflor, who is majoring in Earth systems and anthropology, and Nicholas “Nick” Hakes, who is majoring in philosophy – as 2021 Truman Scholars.

Nicholas “Nick” Hakes and Mercedes “Sadie” Blancaflor are 2021 Truman Scholars. (Image credit: Courtesy Mercedes Blancaflor; Hakes credit: Andrew Brodhead)

Blancaflor and Hakes are among the 62 outstanding college students chosen from across the nation for the scholarship, which provides up to $30,000 to students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in public service.

Stanford nominated the two students following a highly competitive process.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne congratulated each student last week when he called to tell them they had won Truman Scholarships.

Mercedes ‘Sadie’ Blancaflor

Mercedes “Sadie” Blancaflor, 20, of Valdez, Alaska, plans to use the scholarship to attend law school and earn a JD in immigration and climate law.

“I have so much appreciation for my brilliant professors, friends and family who helped me along the way, both in the process of applying for the Truman Scholarship and in my work addressing the climate crisis,” she said.

In its nomination letter, the Stanford Truman Nominee Selection Committee noted that Blancaflor has received national recognition for her leadership and deep commitment to tackling climate change.

“Through her roles on and off campus, Sadie has developed platforms and resources that mobilize the collective power of young people to advocate for inclusive and sustainable futures,” the committee wrote. “Through her work, Sadie mobilizes young people across the United States and beyond as change agents, while supporting their development and growth.”

In one example, the committee cited Blancaflor’s work with the Power Shift Network. As board co-chair of the nonprofit group, she oversees a $1.7 million dollar budget and the mission of cultivating a national youth-led climate movement. This week, after years of planning, the group will bring together thousands of young people from across the United States in a virtual conference to teach them critical skills needed to build climate, environmental and social campaigns.

The committee said one of Blancaflor’s most notable leadership roles on campus has been as co-founder and director of Baole, an undergraduate fellowship program that gives students the resources and space to create climate-conscious versions of traditional cultural dishes. Its approach is grounded in her experiences working on a farm in rural Alaska and as an intern at a Michelin-starred restaurant that used local, seasonal produce.

Since her first year at Stanford, Blancaflor has worked with Joe Nation, a professor of the practice of public policy, to develop materials for his course, “Climate Perspectives: Climate Science, Impacts, Policy, Negotiations and Advocacy.”

Blancaflor recently joined a committee of the Associated Students of Stanford University that is contributing to the design and development of a new school for climate and sustainability, which was announced in May 2020 by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne to help the university address the urgent challenges facing the planet.

In addition, she is a peer advisor in the Anthropology Department in the School of Humanities and Sciences and serves as the editor of Contexts: Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal in Anthropology, an annual publication comprised of scholarly articles written by Stanford undergraduates in all academic fields.

In her free time, Blancaflor enjoys playing the mellophone in the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band and dancing to the music of Gloria Trevi, who is known as the “Supreme Diva of Mexican Pop.”

Nicholas ‘Nick’ Hakes

Nicholas “Nick” Hakes, 21, of Hudson, Ohio, plans to use the Truman Scholarship to attend medical school, with the goal of becoming a trauma surgeon in the U.S. Air Force.

Hakes said he was “immensely honored and grateful” to be named a 2021 Truman Scholar.

“I look forward to writing numerous ‘thank you’ notes to the Truman Foundation and those in my life who have walked so I could run,” he said.

In its nomination letter, the Stanford Truman Nominee Selection Committee described Hakes as “a remarkable aspiring public servant at the intersection of healthcare innovation and military service.”

Hakes, who works as a trauma surgery researcher at Stanford Health Care, is a founding member and vice president of operations at Stanford SWAT (Surgeons Writing About Trauma), the trauma and acute care surgery research group at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health. The group includes trauma surgeons, researchers, resident physicians, medical students and undergraduate students.

In addition, Hakes is the sole student representative on the Stanford COVID-19 Task Force and the Stanford Medical Operations and Policy Working Group.

Hakes is currently the president of two student groups: the Stanford Uniformed Services Interest Group at the School of Medicine and the Ranchers and Farmers Society of Stanford.

The selection committee said Hakes’ informal leadership roles are equally impressive and reflect his ingenuity in addressing the unmet needs of hospital patients and staff.

For example, Hakes initiated and implemented a project to replace Stanford’s 200-page trauma surgery guide with a free, mobile app, which has been downloaded more than 100,000 times by trauma treatment providers across the United States and Canada.

In addition, he installed an emergency supplies vending machine to give hospital staff easy access to intravenous start kits, defibrillator pads and endotracheal tubes. He also created “the compassion closet,” which primarily serves trauma patients whose clothing was cut off upon arrival and emergency department patients who arrived at the hospital with damaged clothing or clothes considered evidence by police.

“Nick’s dedication to the improvement of trauma care, to medical ethics and to military service, combined with his work ethic and ability to influence and innovate, have set him on a course as a future leader in military service,” the committee wrote.

Since his first year at Stanford, Hakes has pursued clinical research with David Spain, a trauma surgeon at Stanford Hospital. Hakes is listed as first author or a co-author on 22 published medical articles with Stanford medical faculty and researchers. He is the first author of “Lessons from Epidemics, Pandemics and Surgery,” which was published in December 2020 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

In his free time, Hakes enjoys a variety of activities, including skydiving, hunting, fishing, growing sweet corn and giant pumpkins, line dancing and listening to country music.